Hours after her top aide Ahmed Patel snatched a close victory in the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat after midnight, Congress president Sonia Gandhi commented to NDTV: “Thank God for the Election Commission.”
He needed 44 votes to win and he got 44 to return to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat for a fifth term. The election became a massive prestige battle between the Congress and the BJP as both had top leaders staking out at the Election Commission.
“I am happy and relieved with his victory,” Mrs Gandhi said, admitting that there was “so much tension.”
She refused to speak further on Gujarat, where elections are due later this year. “My colleagues in the party have already spoken on this,” said the 70-year-old Congress chief.
After voting ended in Gujarat yesterday, the Congress took the battle to Delhi, petitioning the Election Commission to disqualify the votes of two party MLAs who showed their ballot papers to the BJP’s representatives.
After watching a video of the vote, the Election Commission agreed that they had violated secrecy. Its decision reduced the strength of the house to 174 so each candidate needed 44 votes to win, instead of 45, a target that was seeming increasingly impossible for Ahmed Patel to get amid cross voting and defections in his party.
Ahmed Patel’s victory spurred celebrations of the kind never seen before in Rajya Sabha polls, by the Congress, which appears to be having the worst time in decades. Besides defections, the party has been battling the perception that it has weakened considerably and is no longer upto the task of taking on the ruling BJP.